Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Secret Service Is Sued For White House Logs

Democrats sued the Secret Service yesterday for copies of White House logs to determine how often allies and associates of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff visited the executive mansion.

The Democratic National Committee filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, saying the Secret Service has failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for the logs.

The Democrats want to know about White House visits by conservative activist Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

They also are asking for logs that show visits by three former Abramoff business associates: Michael Scanlon, who has pleaded guilty in the corruption scandal; David Safavian, the former Bush administration official under indictment in connection with Abramoff; and Patrick Pizzella, an assistant secretary of labor.

The Democrats filed the suit "to compel the Bush administration to stop the stonewalling and finally be forthcoming with details regarding the White House's level of involvement in the Abramoff scandal," Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said.

The Secret Service has agreed to provide the logs of Abramoff's visits to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch and the Democrats by tomorrow.

Drug Plan Deadline Is Called Costly to Extend

Extending a May 15 deadline for senior citizens to sign up for a new U.S. prescription drug insurance plan would cost the government $100 million this year and $3.4 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday.

Democrats in Congress have been pushing for either extending next week's deadline to the end of the year, or for waiving penalties for seniors who miss the deadline.

On March 15, President Bush rejected an extension, saying, "There's got to be a fixed time for people to sign up" for the new program, which already is estimated to cost $724 billion over 10 years.

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius, traveling with the president in Fort Lauderdale yesterday, said Bush's position had not changed.

The nonpartisan CBO estimated that about 10 million Medicare beneficiaries who are eligible for the prescription drug program this year will instead enroll over the next three years.

The agency also estimated that about 1 million of those beneficiaries would enroll this year if the deadline were extended to Dec. 31.

Democrats Are Urged To Voice Dissent on Iraq

Sen. Russell Feingold, a potential antiwar candidate in the 2008 presidential field, urged fellow Democrats yesterday to show more backbone in challenging President Bush on Iraq.

"We must get out of our political foxholes and be willing to clearly and specifically point out what a strategic error the Iraq invasion has been," Feingold (Wis.) told a National Press Club audience.

He said some Democrats in Congress gave in to "intimidation" by the Bush administration when they voted to authorize the war in 2002, and warned, "If we do not show both a practical and emotional readiness to lead in the fight against terrorism, we will lose in '06 and we will lose in '08, just like we did in '02 and '04."

In March, Feingold called for the censure of Bush over the administration's warrantless surveillance program. So far, only two Democrats, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barbara Boxer of California, have signed on as co-sponsors.

-- From News Services

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